You’ve tried meditation, popped melatonin, sipped chamomile tea, and turned off your screens an hour before bed. And yet you still have a hard time going to sleep, or you wake up in the middle of the night and toss and turn for hours.
Millions of people are sleep deprived, and numerous studies show that consistently getting too little sleep can lead to serious health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and dementia.
If other remedies haven’t worked, your beliefs may be the source of your sleeplessness
The main job of your subconscious mind is to keep you alive, which includes protecting you from potential emotional pain or danger based on what you have experienced in the past.
If at some point in your life, your subconscious decided it wasn’t safe for you to relax into sleep, it will do its best to keep you awake. Sometimes these beliefs can be dormant for years, only to get activated by recent emotional triggers.
Here are some common belief patterns we've helped our clients discover and release, so they are able to start enjoying the quality sleep they need:
1) Childhood Family Tensions
A client was having a hard time getting to sleep at night, and once he finally fell asleep, he would often wake up feeling scared, and struggle to calm down so he could sleep again.
We discovered that when he was a child, he would often wake up because he heard his parents fighting. He was terrified they would get a divorce, which would’ve felt as if his world was falling apart. So his subconscious decided he needed to hold the family together by being on alert for any problems that might happen. He also became the family cheerleader, trying to boost everyone’s spirits and smooth over any tensions.
Belief #1: If I stay awake and alert, my world won’t fall apart.
Belief #2: It’s my job to keep my family together.
Belief #3: It’s my responsibility to keep everyone happy all the time.
2) Being Master of My Own Life
A recent college graduate couldn’t force herself to go to sleep until two or three in the morning. This was fine when she was in college, but horrible once she got a 9-to-5 job.
She had a very controlling mother, and when she was a young girl the only area where she could have a sense of autonomy was with her sleep, because you can’t force anyone to go to sleep, can you?
Belief #1: If I fall asleep early, I’m weak and powerless.
Belief #2: If I stay awake late, I’m my own boss.
For many children, bedtime is not a safe time when they can relax into a nurturing slumber. Instead, it is a danger zone when they (or another family member) might get emotionally or physically abused, including sexually molested.
Out of survival, these children learned that they have to stay on alert at all times.
Belief #1: Sleep is dangerous.
Belief #2: I have to be awake and in control.
4) Environmental Triggers
Neighbors slamming doors, subway trains shaking the apartment, sirens wailing…these are just some of the external sleep interrupters that can intrude into our lives. And even if we move to a tranquil home, our subconscious may have become trained to be on alert to the smallest noises, or to keep waking us up for no external reason.
Belief: My sleep is always going to be interrupted.
5) Parental Alarm
Being a parent means years of your internal radar being on heightened alert for ever-changing concerns. “Is the baby crying?” becomes “Is he having a nightmare?” and then “Did he come home from the party?”
Even after children have moved out on their own, the parental brain can have a hard time calming down.
Belief: If I’m not on alert, something horrible might happen to my child.
6) Breathing Issues, Including Asthma and Sleep Apnea
People can survive for days without water or food, but only minutes without oxygen. When our breathing is restricted, the fight or flight part of our subconscious mind often doesn’t realize we are okay, and it can get into a heightened protection pattern. Once that pattern is in place, even if there no longer is a breathing issue, your mind may not trust that you will be able to breathe.
Belief: I can’t relax into sleep, because I might stop breathing.
7) Sleep Is a Waste of Time / I Won’t Get Everything Done
While scientists are warning us to get enough sleep, our crazy-busy modern world is slamming us with messages about how we have to keep pushing ourselves to succeed, and squeeze in extra hours at work, involved family time, exercise, community activism….
Miranda’s dad was a doctor who was passionate about his work. She later realized he was a workaholic, but he was her model for how to be a productive person in the world. Once, while telling her about an extremely successful colleague, he said with wistful admiration, “He only needs four hours of sleep a night. He gets so much done!” What message do you think she got from that?
Belief #1: Successful people need very little sleep.
Belief #2: If I get a full night’s sleep, I’m wasting valuable time.
8) People Will Think I'm Lazy or Irresponsible
There are so many negative messages that families communicate (directly or covertly) about not being productive:
- The “do-nothing, slugabed” teenager
- The depressed or ill mother who stays in bed most of the day.
- The unemployed brother who "should get out there and do something with his life."
Belief #1: If I sleep as long as I need, people will judge and criticize me.
Belief #2: Needing sleep means I’m lazy and undependable.
9) Not Getting Enough Sleep Is Bad for My Health
Yes, it is helpful that we know how important it is to sleep well. But now many people are stressing out about their lack of sleep, which makes it even harder for them to sleep!
Belief: If I don’t get to sleep quickly, I’m going to be exhausted or get sick.
10) I’m a Bad Sleeper
If you frequently say to other people, or think to yourself, “I have trouble sleeping,” or something similar, you are telling your subconscious mind that this is the truth about you, and that this is what you desire. You are training yourself to function exactly the way you don’t want to be.
Belief: I used to be able to sleep well, but now I can't.
Do any of these patterns resonate with you?
Or did they prompt you to think of other underlying issues that may be keeping you awake?
These are just some of the beliefs we’ve helped our clients discover and heal, so that they are able to get the restful, rejuvenating sleep they need.